Baystate vaccine mandate in effect with 99% employees in compliance; 91% in Cooley Dickinson system

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

 Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2021 6:13:35 PM

GREENFIELD — The vaccine mandate at Baystate Health went into effect Friday, with 99% of employees in compliance.

Out of nearly 13,000 employees, 145 were not in compliance with the policy and have been placed on unpaid administrative leave as of Friday, according to a Baystate Health. Those employees will have two weeks to get vaccinated if they want to continue with Baystate Health.

In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, a number of vaccinations are already mandatory for employment, including measles, mumps, rubella and influenza.

Baystate Health announced the mandate in July, at which point in time roughly 75% of employees had already been fully vaccinated. The decision to implement a mandate came in response to the rising rate of COVID-19 infections locally and nationwide.

Baystate Health comprises Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield and Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer.

Employees who have been partially vaccinated are continuing to work and must get their second dose as soon as they are eligible, a release from Baystate Health states.

“Getting vaccinated is the single most important and responsible step each of us can take to put an end to this devastating pandemic and protect patients, families and each other,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.

Meanwhile, Cooley Dickinson’s health care entities also have a vaccine mandate that goes into effect Oct. 15 for all employees, as part of a mandate for the Mass General Brigham system. As of Monday, 91% of employees at Cooley have gotten the vaccine, with 169 of the approximately 2,100 employees being unvaccinated.

However, some of those 169 people have received a single dose of vaccine and are awaiting their second dose.

Though getting vaccinated may not be 100% effective in preventing infection, it’s effective in preventing serious illness requiring hospitalization and death, according to Dr. Armando Paez, head of the Infectious Disease Division at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

“Even if younger individuals who have not been vaccinated … if you have a large group of those patients — yes, they may not die from it, they may not be hospitalized — but the more chances you give the virus to replicate and transmit it, the more chances the virus can further mutate,” Paez said. “Later on, that variant may be able to overcome the vaccines we have received.”

Keroack said the safety and efficacy of “rigorously tested, FDA-approved or authorized vaccines” is clear.

“The best way to keep our care environment safe for both patients and caregivers during the current pandemic is the highly effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. “That is why we decided to make vaccination a condition of employment.”

Keroack said he had to weigh the potential pain of workers losing their jobs with his personal responsibility to provide the safest environment for patients, “which is best assured by a remarkably safe and effective vaccine.”

“I want to thank our employees who proactively took this important step to assuring their personal health, the health of their colleagues, and the safety of patients and the community,” he said.

According to the release, Baystate Health conducted over the last several months an “extensive and respectful process” for concerned employees — answering questions related to the vaccine, providing emotional support in decision making, ensuring that vaccines are easy to obtain, and addressing special concerns or requests for exemptions.

“We recognize that some employees have remained steadfast in their decision to not be vaccinated, but we must put safety first and follow through with our mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy,” he said.

“We appreciate the support we have received from our team members, patients and community in moving forward with this decision.”

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